Against the background of the Ukraine invasion is being rearmed. Two new main battle tanks from Germany are ready. This should also pose problems for the German-French joint project MGCS.
Only recently it was thought that the German-French joint project Main Ground Combat System (MGCS) would be built in western European tank construction sometime in the rather distant future and that until then the existing main battle tanks would have to be upgraded and converted. But at the Eurosatory armaments fair, there were two full-fledged new main battle tanks, the Panther KF51 from Rheinmetall and the Enhanced Main Battle Tank (EMBT) from Krauss-Maffei Wegmann and Nexter.
The new panther
The Panther KF51 received the most attention – partly due to the controversial traditional name. On the other hand, because the Panther was fairly complete at the exhibition, while the EMBT still had to do without its biggest eye-catcher, the main weapon. Both concepts are presented side by side in detail on the specialist portal “ESUT – European Safety and Technology”.
The central new development of the Panther is the turret. It carries the Future Gun System (FGS) with a 130mm/L52 smoothbore cannon. For the first time in a German tank, this weapon is loaded fully automatically – the previous loader is no longer required. Compared to the 120mm guns, the 130mm gun is said to be 50 percent more effective. The larger caliber comes with a smaller ammo supply. The loader has a capacity of 20 shots – an additional ten can be carried in the tank. That’s not much compared to previous models, but the tanks of the future are more precise. Each shot is designed to destroy a target.
Sensors, target acquisition and electronics are brought together by a bus system based on the standard NATO Generic Vehicle Architecture (NGVA), each crew member has full access to the functions from their seat. The size of the crew is interesting. The Panther can be operated by three people, but there is room for a fourth person. She could take control of flying drones, loitering munitions, or even an unmanned escort tank. When it comes to defense, the Top Attack Protection System (TAPS) stands out, as it can also fend off anti-tank missiles attacking from above. The hull is less revolutionary, essentially taking elements from the Leopard 2.
EMBT with 140mm gun
Krauss-Maffei Wegmann and Nexter have introduced the Enhanced Main Battle Tank (EMBT). A pure demonstrator and no prototype. The hull of the EMBT is also based on the Leopard, the turret is brand new. Here, too, the crew consists of four people. One of them is a system operator. What’s interesting is that both models don’t go the route of the T-14 Armata with a crew of three. Although both tanks are also designed for the use of AI, the manufacturers obviously do not expect that central control functions of the tanks will be taken over by AI without human intervention in the near future.
At the show, the EMBT was shown with a 120mm smoothbore gun and a 30mm armament station on the turret. The turret is also designed to accommodate Nexter’s new 140mm Ascalon cannon. ESUT writes that the installation of the 140 mm weapon system will not happen before 2025. The tower will probably also be adapted for this. The chassis was completely prepared for Drive by Wire, a basic requirement for fully automatic control.
Armament boost from the war in Ukraine
Both tanks are concepts and not a finished product, you will see changes until the series. Since these are industrial and not state developments, customers will have a decisive influence. But one thing is already certain: both tanks will be available much faster than the European prestige project Main Ground Combat System (MGCS). The Panther in particular could go into production relatively quickly if there are serious customers. And that’s what it looks like. The attack on Ukraine increases the need to procure modern tanks in a timely manner. On the one hand, all countries feel the threat from Russia, on the other hand, some states are emptying their magazines to support Kyiv with main battle tanks and they will want to fill the gaps quickly. If the war in Ukraine lasts longer at its current level, the situation will worsen. The only question is where the main ground combat system is then. States that upgrade to a new main battle tank in the next few years are unlikely to retire those tanks to acquire a new system shortly thereafter.
In terms of concept, both models remain far more down-to-earth than Putin’s Armata – the chassis corresponds to an optimized Leopard 2 and, above all, the crew is not housed in a separate protection module. Both models do not follow the idea of a technical “Make a wish!” – they rely on realistic innovations that can be quickly put into series production.
Source: ESUT – Competition with new main battle tank concepts – Gerhard Heiming